American Embassy, Tehran. Anti US graffiti covers the wall at the site of the Iran hostage crisis, which started November 4, 1979. A group of Iranian students acting as part of the Iranian revolution took over the US Embassy in Tehran. In Iran this is referred to as the "Conquest of the American Spy Den". Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days. The hostage taking was widely seen as a blow against the United States and its support for the deposed Shah.
Dust Storm, Turkmenistan. A MiG jet, legacy of past Russian military power in the town of Mary. In Soviet times the Karakum Canal was built to Mary, bringing water across the desert for cotton irrigation. The canal led to widespread soil salinisation, erosion, severe dust storms and further draining of the Aral Sea.
Wabag, Papua New Guinea. A visitor to the Enga Festival protects his ornate hairstyle from a sudden flash storm. Clan and tribal groups, called 'Wontok' (sharing the same language, 'one talk'), still make tribal wars common. A conflict can start over something as simple as the death of a pig.
Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A strongman puts on a performance for market day visitors, many of whom travel in from outlying villages for the day, selling produce and buying consumer goods. Chorsu Bazaar, still on the original site, was one of the busiest trading hubs on the ancient Silk Road. The name Chorsu comes from the Persian language, meaning "Crossroads".
Soweto, South Africa. Swenkas show their moves. The practice, called “swenking”, comes from the English word “swank”. Great pride is taken in their fashions, and European labels have particular currency. In the days of Apartheid, Saturday nights were for swenking competitions and participants were judged on their fashion, their style and moves.
Grand Mosque, Djenne. Situated on an island on the Bani River, the original mosque on this site dates back to the 13th century. The grand scale was a symbol of Djenne's wealth and cultural significance. The market has barely changed for hundreds of years, since salt traders brought caravans from Timbuktu and returned with cloth. The mosque is repaired every year after the wet season. Thousands of volunteers mud-render the rain damage.
Dogon Country, Mali. Boys taking livestock to market. The Dogon mud and stone architecture is unique. Each house is a family compound and granaries with conical straw roofs stand on stone legs to protect the crops from vermin. The layout of villages follows a strict pattern to ensure good harvests; some villages even have a 'rain hook' to bring rain.
Fishing village, Sitakunda, Bangladesh. Lifeboats bought from the ship recyclers have replaced traditional wooden fishing boats. The Bay of Bengal is prone to cyclones, and lifeboats are in demand by fishermen. The cyclone season usually runs between June and September, but in November 1970 a cyclone killed between 100,000 and 500,000 people in Bangladesh.
Friendship Of Nations Arch, Kiev. The arch was built in 1978 and dedicated to the ‘friendship’ between Ukraine and Russia. In 1932 Stalin’s policy of forced collectivization caused famine in Ukraine. Crops and livestock were removed, household foodstuffs confiscated, population movement restricted and outside aid rejected. The purpose was to teach the Ukrainians a lesson and end any thoughts of Ukrainian nationalism. The famine in Ukraine killed between three and seven million people.
Soweto, South Africa. A Swenka shows his style on a Soweto street. During the Apartheid era, male mineworkers lived in dormitories in Soweto, close to the gold mines. During their once yearly trips home many would try to give an impression of well-to-do city life and dress accordingly. This turned into swenking. At competitions on Saturday nights, the winner often gets a cash prize.
Motu Hane, Marquesa Islands. Situated on the outer edge of the remote island group, this small but distinctively shaped island is part of French Polynesia. It was used by mariners and whalers for navigation but in the eighteenth century explorers and traders brought disease, and the population of the Marquesa Islands was decimated by 90%.
Mount Hagen, PNG. Visitors to the Mount Hagen festival. The tribal markings were originally used to intimidate enemies, and also show 'Wontok' or clan allegiance. Ornamental shells have a range of functions including use as currency. This large shell is called a 'bailer shell' and is used for getting water out of canoes.
Mary, Turkmenistan. Workers clean up after celebrations honouring the birthday of the past president Turkmenbashi, or ‘The Head of All Turkmens’. During his presidency gold statues were erected and towns re-named after him. Turkmenbashi also produced a book ‘Ruhnama’ (The Book of The Soul) which contained his version of Turkmen history, moral guidance, spiritual philosophy and his poetry. It was compulsory reading, and Turkmenbashi decreed that anyone who read it three times would go to heaven.
Tolkuchka Market, Turkmenistan. A camel trader who also offers a delivery service. Camels are craned into ancient Russian trucks for delivery to distant villages. North of Ashgabat, this area was the last Turkmen stronghold in 1881 and finally captured by the Russians at the cost of 7000 Turkmen. In the 1930’s, Stalin forced Turkmens into collectives, seizing pasturelands and destroying herds, starting a new age of hardship and famine.
Pripyat Hospital ward, Ukraine. Ivan, a fire fighter remembers: “After about 40, 50 minutes there were two more explosions. A big black cloud, then an intense blue light. A ball of fire covered the moon. I felt sick and fell unconscious. I woke up in the hospital in Moscow with 40 other fire fighters. At first we joked about radiation. Then we heard that a comrade had begun to bleed from his nose and mouth and his body turned black and he died. That was the end of the laughter.”
Kindergarten, Prypyat, Chernobyl. Inside the Exclusion Zone around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, a book is left open in an abandoned classroom. In comic picture form, it explains to young children what to do in the event of an American nuclear attack. Surrounding the reactors was a complex system of attack detection called the Early Warning System. Because it had many construction problems, some referred to it as the Late Warning System.
Mount Hagen, PNG. A boy channels a Kiap, highland police patrols from the 1950's famed for their bravery and skills. Papua New Guineans are clan or village orientated. By joining the Kiap they became part of a new clan, but greater allegiances still remained to their Wontoks, or family and clan groups.
Timbuktu Library, Mali. Hundreds of ancient manuscripts and books are stored here. Timbuktu was a major trading hub and place of learning. Wealthy traders were based in this centre for trade in gold, ivory, salt and slaves.
Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Hundreds of men, mostly immigrants from Burkina Faso, run commercial laundry services in a shallow stream on the outskirts of Abidjan. The floating tyres hold huge stones that are used to pummel the clothing, with a local black soap made from palm oil. Laundry is then placed to dry on nearby hills. The workers are organised by a strict union, which allocates positions and excludes any troublemakers.
Sitakunda, Bangladesh. A shopkeeper specialises in kitchen goods re-cycled from the ships. Along with furniture dealers, electricians, plumbers and glaziers, they will board the ship as soon as it arrives for recycling. They tender for goods that are removed immediately so ship breaking work can begin. Goods from the ships are considered high quality and dealers come from all over Asia.
Inside the Exclusion Zone, Chernobyl. Mikhail and Maria Urupa were relocated to Kiev but after a year moved back illegally into the deserted village where they were born. They are not concerned about radiation as all their family are dead. In the summer, they grow vegetables, collect firewood and gather feed for the cow and chickens. Their children died shortly after the explosion from ‘natural causes’, as it was illegal to put ‘radiation’ on death certificates.
Mount Hagen, PNG. Visitors to the Mount Hagen festival. The Highlanders like to wear 'seconhanklos' (second hand clothes) but for the Mount Hagen sing-sing, all the tribal finery comes out ¬– feathers, shells, bark, paint, fur and quills. The Hagen sing-sing attracts villagers from the Whagi region, who come to show off their costumes, music, dance and culture.
Inside the Exclusion Zone, Chernobyl. A statue of Lenin on an overgrown town square is all that remains of a contaminated village that was demolished and buried. The Chernobyl accident released 500 times the radiation of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. The radioactive material released into the atmosphere included several tons of uranium dioxide fuel and products such as caesium 137, iodine 131, strontium 90 and tons of burning, radiation-contaminated graphite.
Pripyat Cultural Centre, Chernobyl. Spare paintings are stored in the basement. Before the Chernobyl disaster, Pripyat was a model Soviet town. Appropriate portraits were hung to honour the many visiting dignitaries, and then replaced for the next guest. The painting in the foreground is Mikhail Gorbachev.
School class room, Pripyat, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Failure in testing an emergency system led to the shutdown of a reactor, inadvertently triggering an explosion at 1.23 am on April 26, 1986. Only a few kilometres from the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor, Pripyat was built as a model Soviet town with many additional facilities and privileges to attract the scientific elite.
Chernobyl, Ukraine. Once a year there is a visitor’s day for residents who were removed from the Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl in the days following the disaster. Residents were evacuated by bus and train, and told to bring only a few items of clothing, as they would be back in a few days. Here people have a souvenir photograph beneath the "Welcome to Pripyt" sign.
Ship breakers, Bangladesh. A group of boys return from a night shift of ship breaking. Many of the boys will come as a group from a village, sent by their families who are unable to survive on farming alone. They keep costs down by sharing a single room near the shipyard, and cook meals together. The money they save is taken to the families twice a year.
Chittagong, Bangladesh. On the Southern end of the 60km beach near Chittagong, a hulk has been dragged onto the beach to be dismantled with sledgehammers and blowtorches. A boat this size will take about three months working day and night. The work is dangerous, particularly at night. Explosions from gas pockets, dangerous chemicals and falling steel are just some of the challenges that the workers face for the $2 earned on a twelve-hour shift.
Ship Breaking, Bangladesh. At dawn workers start a shift on a 60km stretch of beach near Chittagong. An area that used to be dotted with fishing villages is now devoted to ship breaking. As the ships are not cleaned out before they arrive, any on-board oil and chemicals end up on the beach, the toxic contents of about 100 ships a year.
Sitakunda, Bangladesh. Lifeboats for sale. Purchased from recycled tankers, these lifeboats are in demand by fisherman and the preferred mode of transport on the cyclone-prone Bay of Bengal.
Bangladesh Shipyards. Moffazal Hossen, 34, started working in the shipyards ten years ago when he could no longer support his family through farming. He is in charge of a wire group that carries thick steel cables out to the hulks, which are used to drag the ship closer to shore, so that less labour is required to get steel to the yard. He takes his family money twice a year.
Sitakunda, Bangladesh. Workers returning after a 12-hour night shift for the ship-breakers. Many of these men were farmers or fishermen who were unable to support families. By working on the ships they earn $2 per day, and go home every six months to give the family money. As there are so few other options for work in Bangladesh, there are many people waiting for such jobs.
Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea. A man stands in front of a hut that has commandeered a billboard as useful waterproofing. The people of the Wahgi Valley had no contact with the outside world until 1933, when gold prospector Mick Leahy walked in hoping to find large gold deposits. He did not succeed, but the people of the valley learnt there was a world outside.
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